returned!

Dear students,

I'm back to teaching tonight, Tuesday, July 17, 6 - 7:30pm.

Thanks for your patience while I've been away to study with my teacher.

Love, 
Jennifer

 Adho Mukha Vrksāsana (downward facing tree pose) in Muir Woods (on a day off from class)

Adho Mukha Vrksāsana (downward facing tree pose) in Muir Woods (on a day off from class)

from spark to flame

The meaning of yoga is to restrain oneself from all bonds of pain and sorrow. Hence, Yoga must be resolutely practiced with a determined mind.
— Bhagavad Gita, VI.23.
 Viparita Chakrāsana

Viparita Chakrāsana

 Yoga has to be practiced without distress, anxiety or fear, so that one can reach the zenith in Yoga. ... According to Patañjali, yoga is a discipline... Consciousness is affected more often by emotional upheavals than by intellectual deficiencies. Yoga begins with the mind, as this is the part of citta (consciousness) that comes into contact with objects and creates the feelings. Yoga is a mental discipline for restraining the fluctuations of thoughts, so that consciousness (citta) is kept in an unoscillated, steady and stable state. It is a course of conduct for gaining a steady state of citta [consciousness]. Coordinating the intellect of the head with the intelligence of the heart archives integration between the two...This union of the head with the intelligence of the heart does take place through Yoga sadhana.
— Yogācārya B.K.S. Iyengar, Core of the Yoga Sūtras


Practicing Viparita Chakrasana requires quieting anxieties of the mind/ego that may tend to dominate to let the experiential understanding within rise. On this day, I was practicing after the kids class. Children in a balanced state are able to act quickly and joyfully without dwelling on thoughts and worries. So  first I taught the class but later was learning from seeing their way of being. In childhood I suffered from anxiety and poor health and I never learned handstands or backbends. The brain has to be adjusted and quiet for me to be able to perform this pose. Through Iyengar Yoga, it is possible to reverse the negative experiences of formative years and become free in body and mind.

Once you have decided on a course of action that is good for you, you should not oscillate. A strong determination and discipline is necessary to succeed. If you waver, you will lose the track and disappointments are bound to arise.
— Yogācārya B.K.S. Iyengar, interview with teenage students on August 14, 1988.
Why should you practice yoga? To kindle the divine fire within yourself. Everyone has a spark of divinity in him which has to be fanned into flame.
— Yogācārya B.K.S. Iyengar

Finding the state of freedom within solitude


“In the same way, one can also contemplate each stage of an Asana or each movement of breath in order to bring the citta to a state of desirelessness. If consciousness is kept free from desire, it becomes pure. Mere withdrawal from the world does not in itself achieve this aim.” Excerpt From Commentary on Sūtra I.37,

Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali,

B. K. S. Iyengar.

 

There is a space of “wilderness” within which can be accessed through practice....

“We enter solitude, in which also we lose loneliness…

True solitude is found in the wild places, where one is without human obligation.

One’s inner voices become audible. One feels the attraction of one’s most intimate sources.

In consequence, one responds more clearly to other lives. The more coherent one becomes within oneself as a creature, the more fully one enters into the communion of all creatures.” —Wendell Berry

 


Past pain is finished, future pain can be and should be avoided.

II.16 heyam duhkham anāgatam “the pains which are yet to come can be and are to be avoided.”

“Past pain is finished. Pain we are in the process of experiencing cannot be avoided, but can be reduced to some extent by yogic practice and discriminative knowledge. Unknown future pains can be prevented by adhering now to yogic discipline.” Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, Yogācārya BKS Iyengar. Translation and commentary on Sūtra 11.16.

IMG_3743.JPG

In Iyengar Yoga classes students learn discipline, learn to pay attention to one’s actions, learn to see the results of one’s actions, learn discrimination, and this leads to the ability to practice to heal and overcome one’s afflictions and prevent future pains. Alignment within the poses, alignment of the sequences, the way the class is set up, the way we use props, instructions, etc, everything is done purposely to help the students transform and develop skills ultimately to experience “yoga.” “...Yoga is a preventative healing art, science, and philosophy, by which we build up robust health in body and mind and construct a defensive strength with which to deflect or counteract afflictions that are as yet unperceived afflictions..”

 “Faith, in its broadest sense, is about far more than belief in the existence of God or the disregard of scientific evidence. Faith is the willingness to give ourselves over, at times, to things we do not fully understand. Faith is the belief in things larger than ourselves. Faith is the ability to honor stillness at some moments and at others to ride the passion and exuberance that is the artistic impulse, the flight of the imagination, the full engagement with this strange and shimmering world.”

—Alan Lightman, physicist


1.20 śraddhā vīrya smrti samādhiprajña pūrvakah itaresām “Practice must be pursued with trust, confidence, vigor, keen memory and power of absorption to break this spiritual complacency.” ....”Śraddhā should not be understood simply as faith. It also conveys mental and intellectual firmness...Interestingly, Patañjali’s first use of the word śraddha is explicitly to encourage the sādhaka to intensify his sādhana in order to reach the highest goal. The natural trust of the aspirant is confirmed by revelation, and transformed into the faith which permeates the consciousness of practitioners in any field of art, science, and philosophy. If trust is instinctive, faith is intuitional.” Yogācārya B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali.


What would it take

to see everything

that is happening

as asking for our awakening?

 Kapotāsana - pigeon pose 

Kapotāsana - pigeon pose 

Oneness

SINGULARITY

by Marie Howe (after Stephen Hawking)

Do you sometimes want to wake up to the singularity

we once were?

so compact nobody

needed a bed, or food or money —

nobody hiding in the school bathroom

or home alone

pulling open the drawer

where the pills are kept.

For every atom belonging to me as good

Belongs to you. Remember?

There was no Nature. No

them. No tests

to determine if the elephant

grieves her calf or if

the coral reef feels pain. Trashed

oceans don’t speak English or Farsi or French;

would that we could wake up to what we were

— when we were ocean and before that

to when sky was earth, and animal was energy, and rock was

liquid and stars were space and space was not

at all — nothing

before we came to believe humans were so important

before this awful loneliness.

Can molecules recall it?

what once was? before anything happened?

No I, no We, no one. No was

No verb no noun

only a tiny tiny dot brimming with

is is is is is

All everything home

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Eka Pada Śīrsāsana ~~ one leg head pose

There are poses to explore very very carefully all on one’s own, on a day off from taking care of others... Times to both forget oneself and to vigilantly take care.

In the early years of study with my teacher, he didn’t say much to me, but I do remember how he’d say “take care.” I wanted to become a teacher to help other people.  He kept pointing me to the fact it was needed to first learn how to take care of myself and to face my problems with practice— whether back pain or depression.  This must come first because it’s the basis to gain real experience and wisdom to share with others. When someone who has been there is showing the way and keeps telling you it is possible and you eventually trust them to go there in your practice and face all that you were hiding from, that becomes a tremendous gift. It’s more than the solution of those problems of the present.

The gift of self-understanding gained through practice later belongs to the universe. It doesn’t belong to any one of us.

Practicing with Faith and Detaching with Love

 “The mind is certainly its own cosmos. As Milton wrote in Paradise Lost, “[The mind] can make a heaven of hell or a hell of heaven.” In our constant search for meaning in this baffling and temporary existence, trapped as we are within our three pounds of neurons, it is sometimes hard to tell what is real. We often invent what isn’t there. Or ignore what is. We try to impose order, both in our minds and in our conceptions of external reality. We try to connect. We try to find truth. We dream and we hope. And underneath all of these strivings, we are haunted by the suspicion that what we see and understand of the world is only a tiny piece of the whole.” -Alan Lightman

 Marichyasana 1 (early stage) Pose of Sage Marichi 

Marichyasana 1 (early stage) Pose of Sage Marichi 

  “Whether or not we reach the goal in this life, the journey in yoga to self-culture is itself worth the effort: we all want refinement in our intelligence and progress in our way of thinking... Only the practitioner, if [s]he practices with faith and renounces with love, will discover the truth.” Yogācārya B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali,  epilogue.